Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Open Adoption isn't for everyone .... or is it? Part 1

I get questioned a lot after my open adoption posts. I get an occasional angry email. Sometimes I get the blanket, "There's not one thing for every one!" It has been a really long time since I've addressed the truth, the heart and the mindset of open adoption in detail.

What the heck is it, really? Why would anyone choose it, and why - on earth - would I insist that open adoption should be the choice for every single adopted child?!!?! Perhaps I'm just loony. Move along with me, and we'll see.

The average person is extremely uneducated on adoption. Even those who have adoption in their families tend to not understand all that the word adoption can encompass. I know that - because my husband and I both have fathers who were adopted, but we had everything to learn when we started the process. So, think of this as a crash course on "Why Open Adoption?"

I try to keep my posts relatively short. I'll do my best on this one.

First of all, people assume that closed adoption is the way to go because that's the way it has always been? Right? Actually, the first legal "closing" of adoptions happened in Minnesota in 1917. Other states joined the party all the way through the 1930's. Why? Well, we all know that being unwed and pregnant, or the child of an unwed mother brought a horrible, painful stigma. The mother was shunned. The child was shunned. We lived in a different world then. Sadly, it was a hateful and very harmful place to be for these women and children. So, instead of changing the way we cared about people, we hid adoption. Many women actually faked pregnancies prior to adoptions, so that their children would not be labeled a "bastard." Pregnant women hid out of town until delivery. Everyone got a clean start. Children were not told about their adoptions until they were grown (if at all). It was the best thing for everyone ... wasn't it?

Nope. It took decades of pain and hurt and confusion before experts started to see the damage. Adoption is not birth. Adoption has differences, and because the differences were ignored, adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents were left alone in their loss and grief. They had no way to resolve those losses. They had to just pretend it didn't exist ... on the outside. Adoptees knew that expressing interest or questions about their birthfamily would greatly hurt their parents. Experts started to realize there were long-term effects for many in these adoptions (not just the children, but the adults, as well): crippled self-esteem, feelings of rejection, lack of personal identity, issues building and maintaining relationships, shame, insecurities in parenting, ...

Not everyone in every adoption suffered. Of course not. Yet, not every child who drives around town without a car seat will be injured or killed. So, why buckle up? Because you love your child so much that you will sacrifice and inconvenience yourself to prevent possible harm to them.

By the 1960's and 70's there was no denying the problem. There were changes in the sexual revolution and for the first time birth parents and adoptees felt the freedom to speak out. The more they talked, the more it became obvious: there are losses in adoption. When those losses are not addressed and morned, there can be long-term consequences.

Also, this country could finally put a face to "birth parents" for the first time. Even now, people cannot imagine how someone could "give up a child"? What kind of person can do that? For the first time, we could see the love. Adoption placement is excruciatingly painful ... because these mothers love their children. They love them in exactly the same way that we love our children and are loved by our parents. We can see ourselves in their faces. They're just mothers ... but in frighteningly different environments and circumstances.

to be continued ......


Summer said...

I have a friend who resently found out she is pregnant for the 3rd time. She and her husband have decided to put this baby up for adoption and I sent her to your blog for info. :) She wants an open adoption, she wants to be a part of the baby's life she just knows she doesn't have the resources to take care of a third child right now.

ChrissyLou said...

Thank you, Christine.

Poor_Statue said...

I can't wait to read the rest